WPI West

A Publication for West Coast Alumni and Friends
Vol. 2, No. 1 / December 2002

Curt Carlson '67 Overseeing the 'Soul of Silicon Valley'
Silicon Valley Project Students Awake to Sleep Lab Needs
Patricia Gray '98 (M.S.), '00 (MBA) Finding the Right Moment
Paul MacCready A Career Spent Making Dreams Take Flight
Alumni News Briefs
Mark Your Calendar: WPI’s Heading West Again

Silicon Valley Project Students Awake to Sleep Lab Needs

Thomas Kilduff in the SRI Sleep Lab.

No one can accuse Pierre de Galbert '02 and his teammates of sleeping on the job, but the work they completed earlier this year at SRI International may help others get a good night's rest. Working out of WPI's Silicon Valley Project Center, de Galbert, Siddharth Bhojnagarwala '02, Philip Trainor '02 and Gary Woo '02 developed a computer-based scoring system for animal studies that are aimed at solving human sleep disorders.

This was the second WPI project team to work with Thomas S. Kilduff, senior program director in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory at SRI's Biopharmaceutical Division. The 2001 team laid the groundwork for the current project, Kilduff says. "They planted the seeds and helped us get the lab established; with this year's project, we have sprouts that are nearing the fruit-bearing stage."

De Galbert and his partners, all computer science majors, worked with an algorithm originally designed to identify words in SRI International speech recognition projects. In Kilduff's lab, the algorithm is used to digitize the brainwave patterns of rodents, which exhibit the same underlying electrophysiology as humans for the three sleep states.

"Our goal was to provide the sleep lab with an automated system capable of classifying sleep records from various species, thereby saving time and increasing the accuracy for specialists who now necessarily classify this data by hand," de Galbert says.

"The students provided the infrastructure we needed," says Kilduff, who helped the students form their goals, map out a path to meet them, and introduced them to a variety of useful contacts--including patients at Stanford's Sleep Disorders Clinic. "We now have analytical tools that can be implemented in the lab."

For the students, the project had unexpected benefits, Kilduff notes. "I think they moved from never having considered issues of human health, particularly those involving sleep, to realizing that they perhaps could make a living interpreting brainwaves in practical applications affecting the day-to-day life of ordinary people."

From left, students Philip Trainor, Gary Woo, Pierre de Galbert and Siddharth Bhojnagarwala.

De Galbert, a native of France, was active in campus activities at WPI (captain of the club soccer team, senator in the Student Government Association, tutor in the Peer Learning Assistant program) and benefited from contact with Michael DiPierro, who was his WPI trustee mentor. He pursued a minor in international studies and completed his interactive project in Copenhagen, where he helped the Denmark Center for Technical Rehabilitation develop an English language Web site aimed at handicapped users.

He says his WPI education prepared him well for many opportunities. While he sorts all those out, particularly careers in technology and international relations, he plans to teach youngsters in either Namibia or Mozambique.

SRI, with the encouragement and active support of President and CEO Curt Carlson '67, who had a direct hand in establishing the Silicon Valley Project Center, hosted one of the inaugural Silicon Valley projects, sponsored two project teams in 2002, and has plans to sponsor more projects in 2003.

"The satisfactions of mentoring in the WPI Silicon Valley Project Center are immense," Kilduff says, "and the growth opportunities for the students and ourselves are many." to succeed at SRI. That's also the essence of the WPI Plan, and why it is so valuable for students."

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